In 1967, Mike Wallace anchored the documentary CBS Reports: The Homosexuals. He told he was close friends with James Amster and Amster's male long-term companion, men whom Wallace later described as "a wonderful old married couple" and "both people that he admired".
More than a decade after moving out, in 2003, Robert K. Moyer returned at the age of 88 to the tranquil embrace of Amster Yard. He held his hand to his cheek in astonishment. ''My head is swimming,'' he said. ''I'm home.''
Mr. Moyer could see waiters dressed as French sailors and tureens full of pâté at a long-ago Bastille Day party. He could spy Jacqueline Kennedy stopping at the Greek Island handicraft store across the yard. He could point to the apartments of the designer Norman Norell and the decorator Billy Baldwin. He could envision the antique bottles that workers once dug up, testifying to the days when this spot was a way station on the Boston Post Road.
A party at the home of James Amster in New York City's famed Amster Yard complex. From left, the butler (with back to camera), James Amster, Marian Hall, Ruby Ross Wood (seated), Billy Baldwin, William Pahlman, and Elizabeth Draper. Although there are two chandeliers, note the narrow width of the room as evidenced by the placement. Photo: THE GREAT LADY DECORATORS by Adam Lewis.
James Amster created the landmark Amster Yard, an enclave at 211 1/2 East 49th Street, which he developed in 1944. His partner of 41 years was Robert Moyer. In 1967, Mike Wallace anchored the documentary The Homosexuals. He told he was close friends with James Amster and Amster's male long-term companion, men whom Wallace later described as "a wonderful old married couple" and "both people that he admired".
Amster Yard (interior)
Amster Yard (exterior)
The original entrance to Amster Yard, which James Amster, a prominent mid-20th century interior designer, transformed from a collection of old buildings that he bought in the 1940s. The Yard was Amster's home and office for many years. (Courtesy of New York School of Interior Design, Robert Moyer)
The long section of Amster Yard's L-shaped courtyard is made to appear even longer by a visual trick, a large mirror framed as an arch and suggested to James Amster by the legendary interior decorator Elsie de Wolfe. The mirror remains in the garden today. (Courtesy of New York School of Interior Design, Robert Moyer)
James Amster, who founded the Turtle Bay Association in 1957, in his lushly planted Amster Yard in the 1970s. Today Amster Yard, a New York City landmark, serves as the New York home of Spain's cultural organization, Instituto Cervantes. The courtyard, with the original iron grillwork shown here, is open to the public. (Courtesy of New York School of Interior Design, Robert Moyer)
Mostly, he could picture Mr. Amster. ''People would always say of Mr. Amster, 'He looks like a Spanish grandee,' '' Mr. Moyer recalled. ''If he were alive today, how pleased he'd be to see what this place has become.'' (In 2002 the Instituto Cervantes, a Spanish cultural organization that owns the property, dug up the midblock courtyard and demolished the little 19th-century buildings around it.)
Mr. Amster acquired, renovated and redesigned the Amster Yard. The result was a picturesque cluster of one- to four-story brick houses around an L-shaped garden courtyard filled with trees and shrubbery.
The buildings were turned into apartments, offices and stores. Mr. Amster used one as his own house, which was filled with his collection of Biedermeier furniture.
At one time, the yard was also the home of the designer Billy Baldwin and the sculptor Isamu Noguchi. In 1966, the yard was designated a city landmark.
Mr. Amster was born July 18, 1908, in Lynn, Mass. He studied painting and sculpture at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Early in his career, he worked at Bergdorf Goodman, where he opened and managed the antiques and decorating department.
He opened his own design firm in 1938. His clients included hotels, shipbuilders and businesses in the United States and Central America. He redecorated the public rooms of the Pierre Hotel.
In the 50's, Mr. Amster founded the East 49th Street Association, which became the Turtle Bay Association. He was its president for many years and was chairman at his death.
He was also chairman of the Prescott Neighborhood House and the Prescott Nursery School, a day-care center at 247 East 53d Street, and was president of the Friends of Peter Detmold Park Foundation.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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